Employee Concessions Could Give Rise to Labor Union Membership Growth

The end of The Great Depression saw a significant rise in union membership.  From 1935 to 1940 labor union membership as a percent of the workforce rose from 13% to 26%.


While union membership has declined to 12% in 2008, the global economic recession may usher in a resurgence of union membership.


Recent news reports include stories of companies requiring workers to accept employment concessions, most commonly involving:


  • Health benefits
  • Federal Legislation
  • Salary & performance bonuses
  • Vacation & time-off


While concessions are being advocated as a way to help the company remain afloat, overtime workers may become dissatisfied.


As the level of dissatisfaction rises, union leaders may find conditions ripe for organizing and recruiting new members.  In this scenario, it would be very difficult for management to reverse things once momentum built.


What could tip the momentum in favor of Unions?  Three things:


  • Worker Safety Concerns
  • Continued Job Losses
  • Management’s Failure to Make Significant Concessions


While the current downturn may give many workers no choice but to make concessions, these conditions could lead history to repeat itself:  huge growth in union membership and a new reality for management.